National Diagnostic Solutions
Spring’s Fruits and Vegetables
The fruits and vegetables most likely to dominate your local produce stands and farmer’s markets include:
Strawberries: “Strawberries are among the first berries to become available in spring,” said Moore, and other berries appear as summer rolls in. Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week may help women reduce their risk for heart attack by as much as 32 percent, according to a study published by the American Heart Association.
Asparagus: “Asparagus is best when it’s fresh,” said Moore. It’s packed with folate, an essential B vitamin, and experts have suggested that folate may play a role in heart health and in helping the body make new healthy cells.
Peas: Fresh peas, such as sugar snap peas, snow peas, and green peas, can usually be found year-round, though they’re at their peak from April through July, said Moore. Like most legumes, peas are low in fat and high in fiber.
Fava Beans: “For those willing to try something that may be new or different, fava beans are one of the few beans that can be eaten raw or cooked,” she said. “They are a great source of fiber and folate as well as magnesium, which may help in blood pressure management.” Since fava beans are rich in protein and fiber, they will help you feel more satisfied and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Tomatoes: “Tomatoes are delicious at their peak,” said Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, a clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “When they are in season and locally grown, the price will also be much lower.”
Tips for Preparing Seasonal Food
How you prepare seasonal foods is important. For instance, some cooking techniques, such as breading and frying, can add a significant amount of fat and calories to your diet and undo the health benefits of the produce. Drowning them in high-fat dressings or sauces can do the same.
Many fruits and vegetables don’t even need to be cooked. “Sugar snap peas and sweet peas are great snacks,” said Moore. “Raw vegetables can be eaten with a Greek yogurt dip and chives.” Fresh fruit can be dessert and even tossed in salads — adding “flavor and juiciness so you don’t need as much salad dressing,” she said.
When you do want to cook seasonal fruits and vegetables, try these healthy techniques:
Grill. “The beauty of grilling fruits and vegetables is that not only do they taste delicious right off the grill, but they are also great cold the next day,” said Salge Blake. She recommended drizzling vegetables, such as Portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, and asparagus, with olive oil and seasoning them with salt and pepper. “You don’t have to do a lot,” she said. “Each vegetable has its own fabulous taste and flavor.”
Roast. “All you need is aluminum foil and a pan,” she noted. “Roasting really brings out the flavor of vegetables.” Moore recommended roasting asparagus with some lemon and olive oil.
Steam. Steaming broccoli, asparagus, or other vegetables gives you all the nutrients and taste of fresh veggies without adding a single extra calorie.